Scope of new conspiracy bill reined in, targets fewer crimes: source

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The Japanese government, aiming to enact a contentious terrorism conspiracy bill, has whittled down the number of crimes punishable to less than half of the 676 proposed previously, a source close to the matter said Friday.

The bill would amend Japan's law on organized crime to add a charge of making preparations for terrorism. Past bills of a similar nature have floundered amid criticism that they could be used as a front for human rights abuses by suppressing civic groups and arbitrarily punishing people who have committed no crime.

The reworked bill, which identifies 277 punishable crimes, is expected to get Cabinet approval early next month so it can be submitted to the Diet, with the government citing the need for a tool to better combat terrorist plots as Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe views enacting the bill as a necessary step for Japan to ratify the U.N. Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, adopted in 2000.

That convention applies to "serious crimes," which it defines as those punishable by a maximum of four years or more behind bars.

The bill's previous draft contains 676 such crimes, but according to the source, the ruling coalition's junior party Komeito has asked for the bill to exclude those with a loose connection to organized crime and those that cannot be planned in advance, such as crimes resulting from negligence.

The government has identified 167 crimes central to the bill that can be directly linked to making terrorist acts happen, the source said.

The Justice Ministry now considers that the bill will apply to civic groups that undergo a transformation in character, even if they had previously been carrying out activities with no criminal element, according to documents presented at a Diet committee meeting Thursday.

Government officials have previously stressed that the bill will be worded so that its designation of organized crime groups cannot be applied to "ordinary people."

"We can't protect the public's safety or peace of mind if we don't make (the bill) applicable to groups that have turned into those that commit crimes," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference Friday.

Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda said in a parliamentary session earlier this month that only groups that have made decisions leading to a sustained pattern of criminal activity would be recognized as organized crime groups under the new bill.

==Kyodo

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